Winston Churchill said, after the Second World War, that “it is wise to look ahead, but hard to look farther than what you can see.” Few leaders would disagree with the need for a compelling and clear vision to lift the eyes of those who will then see further, but success is also found in the ‘how’ of arriving at a preferred destination. Visionary leadership sets the course, whereas strategic leadership charts it. To compel people to go from A to Z needs us to first show them how to go from A to B.
1. Creating ‘how-to’ steps will leverage our influence
Great leaders unpack what the process of achievement looks like. Hot air can puff a balloon for all to see, but the admiration is greatest in the flight which gives it purpose.
The problem is when we see the task as that of the few. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 that people were to make disciples, not just be disciples. He then clarified that this involves teaching people to obey His commands.
Not telling people to obey. Not just teaching. Teaching to obey.
The original Greek text uses a word from which we get ‘Mathematics,’ a subject learned in small how-to steps. Every Christian is therefore called to leadership that walks alongside people to show the way of life with Christ.
No ‘plan B’. No ‘non-missionaries’. But teaching is not about disseminating information as much as it is about guided application.
What are you doing to actually help others achieve success, not according to your own ideals and experiences, but where these are used to unleash others’ creativity and giftedness in order that they might be fruitful?
This, of course, needs teachability, too, but coaching is less about expertise than it is about empowerment. That needs love, humility, grace, and persistence that values the world of others enough to believe in its betterment.
Some great leaders certainly have great influence, but each of us is called to leadership that makes a difference in the lives of at least some others in accordance with our unique call.
2. Staying the course is often necessarily routine
Good leaders, then, integrate practical, strategic, and stepwise practices into the outworking of vision. Vision will not automatically burn brightly with consistency, so the fires need to be stoked. Often, though, there is also a need to stay the course when the course is the right one.
Many stray from steps that have worked in the past and are still needed in the present. Climbing back to great heights involves the important, albeit sometimes predictable, routines of success. It involves recommitting to what works when we have given up or pursued a shadow mission of alternative interests.
Wise leaders know the difference between what needs to change because it is not right and what needs to be done because it is!
We are servants of the very habits that define the path and propel us to success. Transformation is achieved in a series of small victories and accomplishments with right actions in pursuit of right goals.
Coaching is often important in bringing accountability for the steps needed. Spiritual mentoring can be vague and exploratory without bringing more definitive action and advice. Of course, it needs to be desired and not pushed if it is to be fruitful, but in the spiritual gym of training (‘gym’nadzo) for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). This needs intentionality from two people working together to propel life beyond any mundaneness which cheapens it.
3. Safety and control can be the enemies of ‘lift off.’
Returning to the hot-air balloon analogy, the most threatening experience can be in achieving lift-off. What is needed for the success of the journey takes us to moments of risk and vulnerability. Staying at ground level is safe and controllable but won’t bring success. Great leaders not only achieve lift-off, but create the hunger for it in others, helping them to believe that the status quo is no longer desirable.
When the journey is the right one and the steps are ordered by God who therefore won’t let us fall (Psalm 37:23-24), the journey needs action to activate our faith (James 2:17). That’s true for leaders and for those they lead. Such actioned self-belief is also seen in leaders without a biblical faith. It is the leadership swagger of confidence, though without arrogance, that makes people around them feel a little taller as they push a little further.
It can be helpful to process with someone an over-dependence on detail or an ‘everything squared away’ mindset. Where does that come from? Does it cloak fear of failure under the guise of being responsible which, though necessary, becomes excessive? Self-belief doesn’t need an intensity that repels if it promotes a vision that compels. How-to steps toward a great vision will naturally engender confidence for willing action.
A preparedness to engage in discussion among peers that conveys an easy receipt of feedback on assumptions and practices can help achieve necessary peer mentoring. Formal coaching is often too infrequent to miss utilising the advantage that this sort of humility can offer in the constant adjustments toward perfection.
Peer mentoring allows the value of private reflection before processing more deeply with a coach, or side-stepping toward counselling if needed.
Self-reflection needs caution, though, in avoiding the perfection of knowledge before committing to progress.
Adjustments need to happen in motion. Too many armchair critics and domesticated philosophers fail to put themselves in the place of activity where others will ever analyse them the same way.
Know, too, that God gives seed to the sower (2 Corinthians 9:10). It’s hard to pray for God to bless you with success when you don’t give Him anything to bless.
It’s time to cut the ropes that hold us back, drop the sandbags of hurts and offences, and take off. This won’t just happen with determination and a grand goal, though.
What is your detailed, well-considered, God-ordained, and coach-approved plan of action today for the hope-filled, impacting, and people-focused fruitfulness of tomorrow?!